Friday, May 23, 2014

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer 2014

Last weekend I completed my 3rd Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Another amazing weekend in Boston with many laughs and tears and memories made to last a lifetime, but I will admit I wasn't looking forward to this weekend as much as I had in the past walks I had done.
Don't get me wrong I still had the drive to fight for the fight against Breast Cancer, I was just nervous because I hadn't trained as much as I probably should of and the weather forecast was calling for lots of rain on both days.

We were 4 members strong this year and most of us started out with money we had saved up from last year. Because we felt so secure with our funds we only held a few fundraisers. We did t-shirt sales, the Marden's bake sale and the popular Ta Ta Trot.

I designed the shirts this year. We had long sleeve, short sleeve and tanks to choose from.

In February we froze our butts off at our annual bake sale. But we had lots of yummy treats to warm people's hearts. We passed the time by keeping track of how many people tried to go 'in' the 'out' door. And we got a couple plugs on the radio by the Kid on Z107.3!!! We repayed him for the on-air mentions by bringing him some goodies. We were hoping we'd get some sales while in the clear channel host building, but no such luck.

We should have taken it as a warning from mother nature at the Ta-Ta Trot as an indication of what we were in for at the Avon Walk as the weather seemed very similar.
None the less though we still had a pretty good turnout on the cold, rainy day in Belfast during the month of March.

Shortly before the Ta-Ta Trot we got a call from our friend and past Avon Walker Alumni, Tessa Hastings, that she along with Caring Connections at the Bangor Y wanted to meet with us to find out some information about the Avon Walk. Apparently, which we had never realized before, Caring Connections get funding from the Avon Foundation, it's small but it's something. They were thinking about coming to Boston with a cheering station and wanted some information from us on if it would be worth it to them. I was unable to attend due to prior engagements, but Arinn, Carissa and Mandie went and had a great time.

May 16th arrived and we began our travel to Boston. We all met at Mandie's house in Belfast and Carissa drove us all to Portland from there where we were schedule to pick up our Michigan girl, Robin, and all of us were to head to Boston together from there.
Shortly after departing Belfast Mandie got a text from Robin saying she was in Chicago and her flight was being delayed for a couple of hours (thanks to the rain that was heading our way for the weekend). Well, we headed to Portland and figured we'd burn off time somehow.
We burned it off by having lunch and beer at Sebago Brewing Company. And cruised around Portland blaring some Salt & Pepa.
We made it to the airport and picked up our beloved Robin and jumped back into Carissa's Toyota and headed to Bean-town. And arrived just in time for 5:00 traffic.

Luckily we had a great driver and made it to event eve on time.

We all got our official walking bracelets, alumni pins and other swag. Robin, Mandie and Arinn signed up for next year's walk. And we got our official "Let the Avon Walk Begin" photo.

Then we headed out on the town to load up on carbs. This year we decided on Emma's Pizza in Cambridge. Yum, yum, yum. And I didn't even break any expensive wine glasses.
We were back in our room by 10:00pm and got ourselves all ready for our weekend.

4am comes real quick and somebody's phone alarm was set to 'fire alarm' mode and we all awoke in a panic thinking we needed to get out of the building.
As we made our way to our van to leave we could hear the rain pounding on the windows of the hotel. My heart was pounding just as hard.
Because of construction going on around the UMass Campus (AKA, Starting line) we had to drop our bags off at one parking lot, park in a different parking lot and walk what felt like a mile to the actual starting line.

After chatting with some other walkers the night before, a lot were recommending flip-flops to help prevent your sneakers from getting soaked. My flip flops were squishy, wet, slippery and very uncomfortable just from our walk from the car. I was not impressed with Mother Nature. At. All!
I couldn't believe how hard it was raining and I wanted to quit already and we hadn't even started.

The opening ceremonies began. I tried focusing on listening to the inspirational stories. Looking around at the strong amazing walkers around me and I said a couple of prayers.
I took a couple of deep breaths and our walk began.
Not even a half a mile into the walk and the rain let up some. I was feeling much better. Carissa and I started off walking together and we got split up from Mandie and Arinn early. We were getting very amused by seeing how everyone was attempting to keep their sneakers and clothes dry. Let's just say I'm sure Ziplock's stock went up that weekend.

Shortly before that video, we had stopped at a crosswalk and I decided to check my feet as I could slightly feel some rubbing. Good thing I checked because as I took my Sandals off there was blood. Oh they were rubbing alright. Since we wanted to keep moving, Carissa just gave me some big bandaids and wrap until I could switch to my sneakers.

At the 5 mile mark we stopped at a Rest Stop and switched walking attire and waited for our teammates.  We filled our water bottles, voided our bladders, got some protein snacks and strutted on.

We walked through the beautiful North End where I craved Mike's Patries. We walked past Fenway where I started to crash and almost jumped on a Duck Tour bus.
One rule that the Avon Walk has for all walkers and the motorcycle crew is sure to enforce is no talking on the phone. Mandie got caught at one point talking to Ben. The enforcer took the phone right out of her hand and started talking to Ben and explained to him why she shouldn't be talking and walking at the same time.

Back at mile 4 Carissa and I saw a lady walk past us and her bib said "I'm walking for myself". It caught our attention and we kept seeing her and we were curious to hear her story. Carissa was able to catch up with her later on and hear her story. Maybe Carissa will comment here to tell us what she said.

Arinn did get on a sweep van a little before mile 12 and Mandie took over the flip cam. (Which is good because she looks way cuter than I do on these videos, must be those dimples.)

We met up with Arinn at Lunch which is also half-way mark of the Day 1 walk. I spent most of the walk talking with Darric who was now in the area and trying to find us. We needed to get going so we decided to meet up with him later.

It was around mile 14 that I got my boost of energy from a maroon van full of familiar faces. Darric, his mom and the kids pulled up on the side of the road and we said hi, gave quick hugs and were on our way again.
My legs were starting to cramp up pretty bad around mile 20 and took some more Advil at mile 21.

Don't tell anyone, but we did get on a sweep van shortly after and rode to the final rest stop. After I drained my bladder and had some peanut butter I perked back up (a little). And then we were on our way. We hit mile 24 and I decided it was time to do my yearly sing to others while walking tradition. I'm not going to post it and show you how awful of a singer I am, and you can't see it if you go to youtube and search for….or whatev, I'll post it. You're welcome Mandie.

There's a giant, long hill that I HATE, HATE, HATE every year. This year was no different, but I'll remember it most this year because it's where Mandie crashed hard and got real delirious. I was worried about her, but she eventually came around.
We turned the finally street corner and made the final stretch to Reebox headquarters where I had the best reunion.

That was the moment I'll remember the most from the whole walk, from all my walks actually.

Then you'd think that we'd get to stop walking at this point and be waited on hand and foot. HA!!! We then have to walk to shlep our bags to our tent, Darric brought us pizza and he wasn't allowed to drive inside the area so we had to walk back out to the entrance to get the pizza and then walk back in. We walked into the dining area to eat, walked back to our tents, walked to the shower trucks which are at the other end of the lot, walk back to our tents, and on and on and on. So, I'd say we made up for jumping on the van earlier in the day.
Good night from the Holy Walkamoles
Day 2

There's something about walking 26 miles in one day that makes you sleep so good, even on a cold hard ground. We were woken up to the sound of a bird chirping and chirping and chirping and chirping.
A nice breakfast, we packed up, and then Mandie need to re-tape her blisters. We didn't get to start with the rest of the walkers, but we weren't the last and still had a good send off.

The Banana didn't last long and before we knew it we were at Mile 1/27
We started off with a good pace and then made it to my 4 in no time. All of us were sticking together as a team and helping each other along.

"Walk-By Selfies" or "Selfie of a Selfie"

This was my 3rd Avon Walk. I'd seen the sights, I'd remembered the pain in my legs and feet, I was so ready to be done. I so wanted to give up at lots of points, more than I had previously. But I just kept focusing on the reason I was walking. I kept focusing on reading other walkers bibs. 
This woman had a Psalm on her bib that caught my attention and stuck with me for the rest of the walk.  "She has no fear of bad news, her heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord."

These women in the blue van seemed to drive by at just the right moment. They had a giant speaker mounted on top of their van with great music pumping out of it and they were singing and cheering us on loud and clear.
Then there was this car. No comments needed for this.
And we entertained ourselves by dancing…
Nothing much exciting happened the rest of the walk, except my very good friend Kelli met us after mile 12 again this year. Which is totally awesome and I love her so much for being there.
Kelli walked with us the last mile and we caught up and it made that last mile go by so fast and before we knew it were were at the finish.

And then we turned the corner to make our way to the official finish line and there was family.

Another year of doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and I continued to learn things about myself, including that if I don't train enough for the walk then I definitely notice a difference. But I also learned that I could push myself even more than I ever had before. Through the rain, through the blood, and through the pain. 

Another year in the books. Another 39.3 miles walked (mostly). More money raised to help fight Breast Cancer. We continue to educate, inspire and motivate others. The Holy Walkamoles are In It to End It.

Thank you again to all of my faithful supporters. Whether you bought a shirt, baked for our bake sale, had me take your photos or just donated to me personally. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, it is truly appreciated. You all keep me going.

If you would like to see more videos of our 2014 Avon Walk, click here.
If you would like to follow Holy Walkamoles on Facebook, click here.
I haven't signed up for next year yet, the plan is NY. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 28, 2014

SupaStar Status

I was on my way to our Timeshare in Island Falls for Vacation when I got a call from my General Manager, Judy Horan…

Judy: "Sam, Judy Horan here."
Me: "Hi Judy.What's up?" (In my head I started freaking out that I had forgotten to finish a project or something.)
Judy: "I was really bummed to find out you weren't going to be in today so that I could tell you the news in person."
Me: "Ummmm, what news?"
Judy: "The news that you have been selected as an Unsung Hero. You were selected as 1 of 6 people from Gannett and in a couple weeks they are going to fly you to Washington DC to receive your award."

Two weeks later I was on a plane, by myself, on my way to Washington DC to Gannett Headquarters. I had only flown once before, and never by myself, so I was nervous, but confident. I sat next to a very nice gentleman on the way there. He was from Canada and he offered me a piece of gum as I was searching for some in my purse. He was on his way to Florida to visit with his son and play golf. He talked my ear off the whole flight. He talked about how he had lost his wife a short time ago. He talked of their life together and about their two sons who were growing to be very successful. He talked about politics, taxes and health insurance. I'm surprised I didn't fall asleep at that point, but his accent was interesting. I told him where I was going and what for. He gave me some tips about work ethics and how to continue to be successful. As we arrived and exited the plane we exchanged names and a hug and I have to say I will never forget him. He was a great start to my adventure with his knowledgeable recommendations and I believe I met him for a reason. 
The second I set foot off the plane at Reagan National it was immediately fast paced. I tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing and found a bathroom to gather my thoughts. 
After trekking around the airport twice I eventually figured out where and how to get a taxi to my hotel. I spent the whole ride trying to figure out what to give my driver for a tip. Thank god for smart phones.

They put me up at the Ritz Carlton and when I opened the door to my room I took my shoes off, did a frantic dance around the room and jumped on the bed like I was 10 years-old again.

With a few hours to kill and having a two-story mall attached to the hotel I decided to venture out there. Since I couldn't afford the stores in the mall, I did a training walk around the mall instead.

Our ride was scheduled to pick us up at the hotel. I got to the lobby early hoping to meet up with some of the other award winners before the awards ceremony.

The first person I met was a young woman named Meghan from Michigan. She works as an executive secretary for advertising in the company's Detroit Media Partnership. We chatted about where we were from. She said she had been to Maine before and she remembered how pretty is was. Meghan seemed so nice and we connected immediately.

The second person that arrived was Larry from Phoenix, Arizona. He worked as a Director of Single Copy/Transportation with Gannett's Publishing Services. He had never been to any of the New England States. It was snowing out as we were waiting and he was amazed at the snow. Meghan and I weren't amazed or amused at all.

As the shuttle arrived a few more fellow award winners showed up-- Isaac and Michael. Michael works in our company's IT department in the corporate office. He was a shy guy who didn't have much to say.
Isaac was another Phoenix guy, but worked on a different floor than Larry on the digital team as a Sales Analyst. His personality was very contagious and he had as much energy as my 9 year-old. He was also very funny. He told us his goal for the end of the day was to get a selfie with the president of the company.

It was approximately a 2 minute ride from the hotel to the corporate offices. We arrived at this beautiful, giant glass building.
Source: Wikipedia

We walked into the entrance which was a large opened area, glass ceilings higher than the Cross Insurance Center. We checked in at the front desk and they put us in a room where we were going to have a meet and greet with the corporate team.

While we waited another winner joined us. Linda, who works in the corporate offices as a facilities manager. Her big curly hair was full of positive energy and she was one of those type of people that you wanted to be friends with forever.

Before the meet and greet started they pulled us back into the entrance for photo shoots. This is where we ran into our final two award winners. Scott and Chris are part of our Video Production Center in the corporate office. Scott is an editor and Chris is a director.

We each had a solo portrait done and then we did a group picture.

Front row, from left: Scott Hall, Samantha Hammond, Linda Holzer and Meghan Ditrapani.
Back row, from left: Michael McGlone, Larry Kaiser, Chris Sweigart and Isaac Rivera. 

Back in the meet and greet room, it was quickly filled with the corporate team. I chatted with Dave Lougee, President of the Broadcast Division, Maryam Banikarim, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer and Todd Mayman, Senior Vice President. The theme of the awards ceremony was All-Star Honors and they all were to wear something "baseball" related. So, they were all chatting about which jersey they wanted to wear. I noticed out of the corner of my eye as Gracia Mortore, Gannett's President, walked in and Isaac almost immediately got a selfie with her. Isaac for the Win!

Shortly after that we were escorted into the 'stadium' where lots of people were gathering for the awards. Besides the Unsung Hero Award there were also many other awards being given. You can imagine that the room was filled with some pretty amazing people. There was also different division meetings going on throughout the day so others were there as well to witness the award winners receive their recognition, including one of my general managers, Steve Carter. The ceremony was also being live streamed so it was going to be seen companywide; I knew my people back home were preparing to watch and all I could think was "Please don't do something stupid that everyone will remember and talk about for decades."

We got to sit very close to the front of the stage. They put the Unsung Hero award winners scattered in between all of the other awards and we each had a video produced about us as well. Here's mine.

Yay, I didn't trip and I DIDN'T have to give a speech. Although I wish I would've corrected Gracia with her pronunciation of Bangor.

It was great listening to the stories of all the award winners and after all the awards we had a cocktail hour where we could chat with everyone.

Linda then took us for a quick tour. Most of the building is rented out and there are a lot of offices that we didn't see, but she took us to the dining area (it was larger than EMMC's Dinning area), showed us the spa, the gym, and my favorite place was the newsroom.

After our tour it was time for a reception dinner. We headed up to the top floor to the corporate offices. There were drinks being served as we looked at the views from Gracia's office and the boardroom. I chatted with Maine native, Michael Christie, who is now the Director of Corporate Facilities Services. He used to work as Senior of Operations Manager for MBNA in Belfast. We talked about Maine and the midcoast area. Great guy, very easy to talk to.
People started making there way down to the dining area. There were assigned seats and I was lucky enough to sit next to Dave Lougee and John Misner. John is the President and General Manager for KPNX out of Phoenix, Arizona. We talked about the things that I'm involved in at my station. He gave me a compliment by saying "So, what would it take to get you out to Phoenix."    He also compared me to Heather Gray, who I'm told is a great multi-tasker and good at figuring how to get things accomplished with less.
After dinner and lots of mingling, it was time to head back to the hotel. Now that we knew each other and everyone was staying at the same hotel we all planned to meet at the lounge later.  I went down after checking in with my kids and had a great time meeting some other new people. I stayed until 10:30 and by then I had to get out of my boots before I fell over. I called and said my goodnight to Darric and slept like I had never slept before in the most comfortable bed ever!

The whole way home I kept smiling thinking about the day before. It felt good to meet new faces in the company. It felt good to stand beside others who are passionate about their job. I'll never forget my other unsung hero winners, and I hope I left a mark on them that they will never forget.

Before the trip to DC some of my coworkers told me they couldn't believe that I was going to travel that far, to that big of a city, all by myself. I told them that I had to put on my big girl panties and not miss out on this opportunity. Working in one of the smallest companies in the business, it's hard to not get looked upon as the small person, as a nobody. This trip made me feel like somebody, made me feel worth something, made me feel important was kinda nice.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013 Year In Review

Dear Past, Thank you for all the lessons....Dear Future, I am ready!

Last year I ended my year review post with "I know that this year has a lot of hard days to come..."

We made it...another year. A year we knew was going to be a rough one, but each day the sun came up and each night the sun went down. Even though we would've liked the world to stop for awhile, it didn't, and we made it through the year.
Let's review shall we...

The bitterly cold month of January brought us many obstacles. The best part of the month was having our niece Danielle home. It amazed me to see how much she had grown up. She came up quite a bit to visit and had a blast playing in the snow with the kids.

Danielle has been living out of state for the past couple of years. Darric's sister's husband, Gary, is in the Navy and they've lived in Italy and Florida. Gary retired this year and the family has picked Maine for their final resting spot. They landed back to their home state in February.


For Darric's mom's birthday we decided we would redo her mud room while she was away for the weekend. As Darric started taring the room apart he discovered mold in the doorway and the project became a lot harder and took a lot longer than originally planned.


In March we took our annual vacation up to Island Falls. We use this vacation to get our last bit of snowmobiling in for the year. This was actually the first time we were on the sleds this year due to lack of snow in our area. It was a very bitter sweet week for all of us. Vacationland Estates is one of our favorite places, but being there without Richard was heavy on our hearts. It was really hard going snowmobiling without him. Every time I looked in my rearview mirror and didn't see him there, it brought tears to my eyes. Snowmobiling will never be the same.


Deb's annual easter egg hunt was a little low key this year, given the circumstances, but having Gary, Lisa and Kiersten there gave us the opportunity to capture some memories all the same.


One thing that kept us going was keeping busy. We kept busy by getting the kids involved in extra curricular activities. Jordan took some Karate classes and Gracie did Gymnastics.
Jordan caught on quick in Karate, but he got board quick with all the repetitiveness.
I was a little nervous with Grace doing Gymnastics with her broken arm freshly healed, but the instructors seemed to think it was OK. She loved gymnastics and I think it helped her to be more independent.
The best part was the Gymnastic's show at the end of the season. She loved being up on that stage.

Of coarse I did my 2nd Avon Walk and you can read about that here.


I chartered a Deep Sea Fishing trip for Darric for Father's day that was wicked awesome and you can read about that here.


Jordan really got into baseball this year. A lot different going from T-ball to Farm League. He had lots of practices and games during the week and Darric even got involved by pitching at some of the games. Jordan did really good and loved being the catcher. When he was out in the field he was literally out in left field, if you know what I mean.
Having family members come watch him play also gave him lots of encouragement.
His team made it to the playoffs and his team....became the league champions.


In July Darric's cousin Chris and family came to visit for 3 weeks. They are all from the south so trying to get them to experience as much as Maine as possible brought many adventures. One of their first nights we treated them to lobsters.

I was the most excited that they were here for Gracie's 4th birthday party as well as my friend Kim, so Grace had both of her Godparents there.

Grace had a wonderful 4th birthday party. The theme was Doc McStuffin and you can read about her party here.

When the 'Southerners' said they had never been camping before we knew that was a must. Sitting by the fire, cooking outside, tubing, swimming in the lake at sunset, fireworks, fishing. I think they enjoyed most of the camping experience....all except for the shower houses, right Tammie.

We took them to the Skowhegan drive-in to see Monster's University and had a blast.

I was bound and determined to show them a moose while visiting. So, one day while Darric was working the rest of us crammed into my trailblazer and headed for the golden road. My plan was to go from Greenville to Millinocket and back. A couple of them almost shit their pants after the first logging truck passed us doing 70mph. We made it to Abol bridge with not a sign of Moose.

I figured we'd go to the famous painted rock and turn around and head back, giving us more of a chance to see moose. I kept talking about this famous rock that people come to see all the time while visiting Maine. I shared the stories of riding to it on snowmobiles and passing it on the way to the mountain. We arrived and their exact words... "That's it! We have rocks like that in the south, what's the big deal."
No Moose...not impressed with our rock...I wasn't having good luck.

Then on our way back through Greenville guess what we saw...
We watched this baby calf for a good 15 minutes. Everybody was amazed, especially Braeden. He wanted to take it home with him.
Then as we passed the salt plant we saw a whole bunch of cars pulled over looking. And whattya know, another one.
Everyone was so excited and I wasn't feeling so disappointed anymore.
The next day we decided to try our luck at seeing a Whale. We all crammed into my trailblazer again and headed for Bar Harbor. The last time I was on a boat similar to the boat they use to take people out whale watching I was sick as a dog, so you could say I was not looking forward to this excursion.
It was a foggy day so we were going to stay in the cabin, but when someone said people are more apt to get sick inside we decided to go up on the deck and freeze. I wrapped Grace under my jacket and we sat still the whole way out. She got quiet and was white as a ghost so I grabbed some puke bags to keep handy and they got used soon after. She fell asleep and I just sat still to keep my stomach at ease. Jordan had gone back in the cabin with Peyton, Chris & Braeden. Then the boat stopped to look at some Whales and Peyton brought Jordan back to me stating that he had just puked. FUN!!
Grace stayed asleep, Jordan felt better and was able to get some videos on my phone of the many whales that everyone was seeing. We later found out that while Chris & Braeden were inside Braeden puked all over Chris and then fell asleep and Chris couldn't move and all he was wearing was a tank top.
It was cold, foggy, and something I will never get talked into again.


We ended their vacation by taking them to Boston. They wanted to go to New York, but when we told them how long of a drive it was from Maine, they decided Boston would do. I think they were satisfied with Beantown.

We got weekend tickets for the Super Duck Tours which I highly recommend. Great way to see and hear about the city. With many stops that you can get off, then every 15 minutes another bus comes around and you can get back on. The drivers were informational and humorous. And part of the tour included the water version of the city.

We took the Amtrak Downeaster to Boston out of Wells and then back to Wells and stayed in a beach house for a couple of nights.
 The day before we had to take them to their plane in Portland we took them to Wells beach.
It was a great vacation with The Blanchards, we made many memories with them, even if some of the memories included puke and we were very sad to see them go.


Jordan turned 8 years old and had a Despicable Me birthday party a local bounce house, you can read about it here.


My aunt Leigh came up to visit in August and we had a great Goody family reunion at Alamoosook lake in Orland. It brought back many memories of going there as a child.

 Grammy gathered some old pictures, it was nice to reminisce.

And it was also nice to have my mother's brother's and sister's all together that I couldn't resist taking group pictures. Although I had a hard time getting them to cooperate.

Now you all can see why I am so crazy.

At least we got everyone to cooperate for the big group photo. I just won't tell you that a couple of the goobers in the back were being foolish.


As I've said before we try to make it a tradition to take a summer vacation just us as a family. This year again we picked New Hampshire. Every year we go to New Hampshire we always say one of these years we should stay at the Red Jacket Inn. This year we did.

Fire with marshmellows every night, hay rides, activities for the kids and oh I can't forget...they have an inside water park with giant waterslides, a wave pool, and tons more. We had so much fun and will probably be back.


One thing Darric has always wanted to do was Bear Hunt. He was fortunate enough to work on a guys boat who was a bear guide and he worked out a trade deal with him. He stayed at a place not too far from the house and had a great time. He said they provided great food, had nice cozy room and the other guys were nice and on his last day...he got his bear.
Weighing in at 188lbs he was one happy man.
On New Year's Eve when I asked what was everyone's highlight of their year Darric said it was his bear hunt. He said he had wished his dad could've been there with him and I told him oh he was.

So, there you have it. Some of the better moments of 2013. I'll be honest, it has been one of the roughest years to date. I went through some tough things this past year and it's taught me a lot about my self, about marriage, about family and about life. I knew it was going to be a rough one, but some things that happened I could have never imagined would happen or prepare myself for them. But as I said, we got through. The sun came up every morning and went down every night. I'm going to continue to focus on my kids to help get me through because I do know that someday they will grow up and our life won't be as crazy busy and I'll miss it.